Everyone who knows me well knows that I have a bit of a slight obsession with basketball. Ok, maybe slight might be an under exaggeration. I enjoy the game so much so that I even had a little stint playing for my university team in Leicester and a team of wonderful ladies in London for yet another brief stint. My move to Toronto during the articling experience barely left me with enough time to contemplate my sanity, yet I managed to get involved and play with the Toronto Sports and Social club for a year. In the past summer months, it won’t be unusual to see me and my poor old knees attempting to keep up with the young neighborhood kids who emphatically state, “We will not take it easy on you because you are a girl”.
My instagram and twitter feeds are filled with pages that promote basketball on all levels. I mean I support the CIS, Go Ravens! I watch NCAA games, I watch Raptor Games, I watch Raptors 905 games, and I was at almost all the basketball games during the PAN AM Games. I would have been at the PARANPAN Games but I had to travel during that time frame. I watch the FIBAS games that’s from FIBAS U-18 down to FIBAS Africa. I have a love affair with Mexico’s Doce Guerreros. On a random weekend, you’re most likely going to find me watching a game or giggling over stat’s scores. As if that isn’t bad enough, I decided to combine my professional life with my love of sport. That is right my practice, new as it is, encompasses Business, Entertainment and Sport’s law.
One of the accounts I follow on twitter, are @Bballnaija and@AbamsaQuaf. A post was put up by the latter on instagram. It was a map that showed the states that are to be expected to play in the 2016 DSTV/NBBF Basketball League. The former set up a post bemoaning that fact that only 33% of all states in the nations are involved in the league. The poster also mentioned the positive facts that there were other leagues that are running and that there is a successful model already in place as other teams run successful programs.
As a Nigerian who can count on the number of fingers I have, the years I have spent in the country, it hit me that sure I can name different basketball leagues in North America, Europe on a professional or semi-professional basis, yet I am shamefully not as versed in the leagues from my home country. Yes I follow the national team especially the women as I am a bid advocate for women in sports, however I know next to nothing about the national leagues as they stand. A quick chat with other Nigerians who fall into the same category as me shows that this is indeed a pressing problem. Now instead of sitting down and bemoaning the fact that no one has brought the information and news as I like it to my attention, I will endeavor to educate myself and others.
Trying to find information online is sometimes an exercise in futility so I have decided to take it upon myself to do a break down. From what I understand from the two twitter handles and some research, the NBBF (Nigerian Basketball Federation) acts as an overseeing and governing body for basketball in Nigeria. The top league aka premier league is built up by the Savannah Conference and the Atlantic Conference. A majority from the Savannah Conference encompasses states from the North and Middle belt while the Atlantic Conference seems to be based mostly from Lagos, a team respectively in Ibadan, Illorin and Asaba.
The poster from the @bballnaija handle had quite a few questions. The only question I will attempt to answer is the last question which was left pretty much as an aside to the post. That question however is the only one that I am capable of answering.
His question was threefold, the first was to who if anyone, should be responsible for creating and monitoring fan bases, the second was who would be responsible for the organization around ticket sales and finally who should be responsible for the organization of the standard for basketball arenas.
- Fan bases
To an extent, Nigeria is very lucky because we have the opportunity to have foresight on issues that can or cannot work. We have the unique opportunity of undertaking our organization after many successful leagues in other countries have done so. With this foresight and from my experience from travelling, watching and organizing events with relation to sport, I believe the best way to go about creating and monitoring fan bases would be to create a governing body. Whether it be in form of an association, an organization or a board of directors. This first step is imperative. Once this organizational structure has been set up, then next step to deal with this question at hand is to create a position of the director of communication. Now the title director of communication can be replaced with special events expert, social media and marketing coordinator or a social communication analyst. The individuals that work in this position would be mandated to create social media campaigns, giveaways, twitter campaigns, create advertising models, reach out to sponsors, and promote the group on other forms of traditional media. A key area would be through advertising in various schools and community colleges. Now this campaigns need to be relatively uniform and have the same overview. To start of successfully, I believe that the individual and individuals should work with the overseeing body to cover creating a framework for all the teams. Once, the framework is created, then the work can be delegated to a worker in each team, to carry on the fan base building work.
- Tickets sales.
There is a lot that to be said about uniformity. It would be folly to allow the teams to set tickets prices, conditions and terms individually which could lead to huge discrepancies. There is also however merit in allowing each time to determine what the costs should be because the teams on the ground are aware of the several factors that involve whether or not the ticket prices will be attractive. The Organizational body, should create a price grid for the regular season that allows the teams to choose either a higher price point or a lower price point or even once in the middle. This way there is oversight but the teams are given autonomy. The prices set for special events or the playoffs should be regulated by the individual teams. The poster’s anecdote about travelling to Kwara and staying at a hotel can be a part of this price regulation. The team can state that those who stay at a particular hotel for instance, get a discount on their ticket. Avenues like this opens doors of mutually beneficial economic relationships.
- Standards of basketball arenas
Uniformity is a theme that has been running through this article and I believe once again is key in this area. Most leagues have different courts even the NBA and FIBA court dimensions differ. The key thing is that all the associations or member groups that play within a league have the same court dimensions. Now out of personal preference, I would recommend the NBA court dimensions because it has more applicability as it used in the NCAA, WNBA where a significant amount of Nigerian Athletes play ball uses the same dimensions. Yes, international games and a significant amount of Nigerians play in European leagues. There was a move back in 2013 for CIS teams to adopt FIBA rules. Any set of rules with regards to court dimensions work well as long as it is uniform across the board.
Here is to the first of my random musings that could educate and promote Nigerian basketball or if I am immensely lucky perhaps one of my suggestions can inform policy.
Barrister and Solicitor